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Research article - Peer-reviewed, 2014

The Swedish Armed Forces temperament test gives information on genetic differences among dogs

Arvelius, Per; Strandberg, Erling; Fikse, Freddy


With the dual purpose of selecting both breeding animals and dogs for training, all German shepherd dogs in the Swedish Armed Forces (SAF) breeding program are subjected to a temperament test. During the test, the dog's behavioral responses are rated with 2 different methods. In a previous study, using Principal Components Analysis (PCA) on the test items, 5 and 3 underlying behavioral dimensions from each rating method were defined. Three of the dimensions were reported to correlate significantly to training success. Using the test results from 873 dogs, we estimated heritabilities of, and genetic correlations among, the 38 test items and the 8 underlying behavioral dimensions. Parameters were estimated using a mixed linear animal model including fixed effects of sex, training level, test age and test year-location combination, and random effects of litter, genetic effect of the individual, and residual. Heritabilities ranged from 0.00 to 0.28 (standard error [SE] = 0.05-0.10), which is similar to what has been reported in previous studies of traits defined and measured in a comparable way. Genetic correlations were high (r(g) = 0.92-0.98, SE = 0.08-0.12) between dimensions derived from each rating method and defined as either confidence, engagement, or aggressiveness, but relatively weak among these dimensions within rating method (r(g) = 0.00-0.45, SE = 0.29-0.41). Our results imply that the test measures 3 separate behavioral dimensions and that the SAF temperament test as a whole is possible to use for selection of dogs for breeding, but also that some test items should be measured differently to be meaningful for genetic selection purposes. Furthermore, aggregating variables based on a PCA performed on phenotypic data might be suboptimal when defining dimensions for breeding purposes; taking genetic parameters into consideration resulted in generally higher heritabilities for the dimensions. (C) 2014 Elsevier Inc. All rights reserved.


temperament test; behavior; German shepherd dog; breeding; heritability; genetic correlation

Published in

Journal of Veterinary Behavior: Clinical Applications and Research
2014, volume: 9, number: 6, pages: 281-289

Authors' information

Swedish University of Agricultural Sciences, Department of Animal Breeding and Genetics
Swedish University of Agricultural Sciences, Department of Animal Breeding and Genetics
Swedish University of Agricultural Sciences, Department of Animal Breeding and Genetics

UKÄ Subject classification

Genetics and Breeding

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